Nearly 1,000 members of the Columbia community came together on College Walk this Thursday for the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, hosted by the undergraduate student councils.
Such a large group has not gathered in front of Low Library since last month, when students demanded that Columbia provide sanctuary for undocumented students, and a week before that when students protested Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election. Unlike the events of early November, the Tree Lighting Ceremony was a time for students to come together and enjoy the holiday season.
One of the most highly attended annual events on campus, the Tree Lighting Ceremony has become a beloved Columbia tradition, and for many, it's a cherished part of their time here.
Before the ceremony, several a cappella groups performed holiday classics on the steps of Low Library, including two renditions of "Hallelujah." Meanwhile, hordes of students endured the cold and waited in line for free hot chocolate, donuts, T-shirts, and travel mugs.
"We wanted T-shirts and hot chocolate and donuts—let's be real," said Electra Williams, CC '20, after waiting in line for half an hour with the rest of her floor from Carman.
For seniors, this year's ceremony carries even greater significance.
"It is the last year that we can do this, so it's an exciting thing to do," Jan Krovatin, BC '17, said.
Since the Tree Lighting Ceremony is one of the few times Columbia comes together as a community, for many it is a relief from academic stress and a chance to relax with friends.
"I've always seen the Tree Lighting Ceremony, every year, as kind of a break from the stuff that has happened over the year," Pieter Clerger, CC '18, said.
This year, in light of the recent anxiety on campus after the presidential election, students appreciated the opportunity to enjoy the holiday spirit.
"It is really nice that it is a tradition that continues, and that people still come to even though there is a lot of stuff that has been going on here and everywhere in New York, that people can come together still and just do this," Emilia Naranjo, BC '17, said.